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Live Wimbledon Coverage Moves to Cable Only


Two days after the end of the 2011 Wimbledon tennis championships, ESPN announced that it would take over U.S. coverage starting in 2012, effectively ending NBC’s 46-history of covering the sports’ most famous grand slam event. ESPN said its 12-year contract will result in more than 140 hours of tennis coverage on a variety of platforms.

Since 2003, NBC has shared coverage of Wimbledon matches with NBC, which provided live broadcasts of matches on the middle Saturday of the fortnight event, as well as coverage of the mens and ladies semifinals on the Thursday and Friday before the finals and live coverage of the ladies final on Saturday and men’s final on Sunday. While coverage of the mens and ladies semifinals were live on the east coast, they were tape-delayed for the west coast in favor of the “Today Show,” which did not sit well with Wimbledon fans. According to sources familiar with contract negotiations, The Los Angeles Times reported that NBC said it would begin west coast live coverage of the semifinals in 2014, but that ESPN promised it would begin live coverage of those matches immediately.

NBC released a statement saying, "we are proud of our 43-year partnership with the All England Club and while we would have liked to have continued our relationship, we were simply outbid."

ESPN will provide coverage of Wimbledon on its “multimedia array of platforms,” including both ESPN and ESPN2 simultaneously during the second Monday-Wednesday, which will allow for expanded coverage of the Round of 15 and live telecasts of all quarterfinals. ESPN will televise the semifinals and finals, while ESPN on ABC will broadcast a three-hour highlights show on the “middle Sunday” of the tournament, and will reair the finals on a same day basis at 3 p.m. EDT. This effectively ends all live coverage of Wimbledon on broadcast TV in the United States.

Ian Ritchie, Chief Executive of The All England Lawn Tennis Club, said: “We are delighted to be extending our partnership with ESPN, in a move which will consolidate our U.S. media rights under the auspices of a single partner. This new agreement will bring increased live coverage of The Championships and ensure that the huge international audience for Wimbledon can now enjoy all the drama and colour of the Fortnight through a sustained narrative delivered with clarity, continuity and consistency across a wide range of platforms.”

George Bodenheimer, president, ESPN and ABC Sports, said, "We are proud to have been a partner of The All England Club the past nine years and are thrilled to be given continuing responsibility for honoring Wimbledon’s rich tradition. Over the next 12 years, we'll work closely together to move coverage of this great event forward with live coverage on television and using all the latest technologies and screens."